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The World’s Building Blocks
The civil and construction engineering disciplines are the world’s building blocks that enable essential infrastructure.
The civil and construction engineering disciplines use envelope-pushing software that has long rendered slide rules and drafting tables obsolete. But, in the end, the engineers of who work in these disciplines still use steel, concrete, asphalt, and wood, turning pixels into infrastructure that spans canyons and crosses continents.
We can take modern infrastructure for granted, but those who design and build never forget the sweat, creativity, and collaboration that enabled it, making their essential, structural work deeply satisfying because they know their work creates the building blocks for the infrastructure that physically connects the world.
Engineering expertise to right, redesign and redirect the current infrastructure remains in demand as civil and construction engineering momentum continues to build. Learn why and how from those working within these disciplines on the following pages.
Langan Excels at Wood by Stepping Up
Bonani Langan, PE, RSM is an associate engineer at Wood who helps clients manage their legacy assets through implementing sustainable remedial practices. She leads a team of six people to achieve this, and loves both her work and her colleagues.
“I love the dynamic environment of consulting; things are constantly changing, so once you figure out a problem, you get to move on to the next challenging issue,” she elaborates.
“I also really like the people with whom I work. We have such a diverse group of people with such a wide skill set that we can accomplish anything to which we put our minds.”
Enjoying one’s work is common at Wood. “I’ve been with the company for eight years, and throughout all of the changes, I’m surprised at how people have stayed, even though the company has gone through a series of mergers and acquisitions. I think that this reflects the strong network and support system that we’ve built within the company,” Langan points out.
Wherever you work, Langan believes you can build a strong career with three legs, much like a tripod: “Someone once told me that you need three things in your career: a mentor, an advocate and acknowledgement.”
A mentor lends you his or her experience, but an advocate believes in you and acts accordingly.
“Everyone knows that we need to build networks, and seek mentorship and coaching from those with experience, but it’s also very important to have an advocate or champion who is cheering you on, volunteering you to lead a big project or mentioning your name to senior leadership as a person to watch,” she explains.
When you step up, that merits attention, which might require you to draw attention to and tout what you do - something that’s necessary to move forward in your career successfully.
“It’s important to have acknowledgement that you’re being noticed and identified for those things for which you’re volunteering your own personal time. It’s good to be humble, but sometimes we need to let management know what we’re doing to build our leadership skills,” Langan explains.
If you’re still in school, then learn beyond the classroom as soon as possible, she counsels.
“Get a summer internship with a consulting firm, regulatory agency or industry. It’s so important to start building your network early so you give yourself more opportunities when it’s time to enter into the workforce,” details Langan.
If you’re already working, then go the extra mile, the associate remediation engineer and project manager further encourages: “If you’re interested in working on a particular project, then volunteer your time and learn more about the topic. If you show initiative, then people will notice, and when they need help, they will come to you first.”
Of course, all of the professional volunteering can ripple through one’s family, as Langan has learned. “One of the most difficult challenges that I’ve faced in my career is learning how to find harmony between work and my personal life. Raising young children and keeping your foot on the gas pedal at work is challenging. There’s a constant struggle to be your best in both worlds while fighting the perceptions of others.”
Langan finds that giving her all wherever she is works for her.
“I think it’s important to have a strong partnership at home and be 100% invested either at work, when at work, or at home, when at home. Finding balance are a constant struggle, and I’ve found that being flexible is the best way to navigate the situation,” she concludes.
Wood is globally headquartered in Aberdeen, Scotland, with 235 offices in North America, including Atlanta, GA and Anchorage, AK. Learn more via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and see what jobs are open at woodplc.com/careers.
Patel Enjoys the Daily Demands of Public Infrastructure at HDR
Sheena Patel is a transportation engineer and project manager for highway and rail infrastructure projects in California. She’s one of nearly 10,000 employees in more than 200 HDR locations around the world. Patel and her 10,000 colleagues are deeply invested in their company.
“I appreciate that HDR is an employee-owned company. I believe that employee ownership provides a unique culture that values employees who take initiative to improve how we function and lead the development of our local offices,” says Patel.
HDR’s employees are also deeply invested in their communities, which they literally build, maintain and repair.
“It’s exciting to see the work of our teams come to life in projects that are used by the communities in which we live. Although public infrastructure projects may not be the most glamorous projects, they impact so many people without them even knowing it,” she points out.
Public infrastructure projects are also demanding, and Patel wouldn’t have it any other way: “Every week is hard or scary in some way. If it wasn’t, then I’d probably get bored.”
Why is public infrastructure hard? Because it’s impossible to foresee every coming complication, according to the senior transportation engineer and office principal.
“Working on public infrastructure improvement projects requires a lot of patience and perseverance. The process from preliminary engineering and environmental clearance through construction typically spans several years, and obstacles surface continually that can pose risks to project delivery,” she elaborates.
When Patel first started her career, the complications discomforted her, but she came to realize that discomfort is the doorway to growth.
“Early on I was much more nervous about taking on new challenges for fear I lacked experience. Eventually I realized that to grow it’s necessary I continually stretch myself beyond my comfort zone,” she relates.
Of course, it’s prudent to tap all of the experience of those supporting you, Patel believes. “A big key to that is being self-aware enough to reach out to others when you need input and guidance. In most cases, there are people out there who can help you learn enough of what you don’t know to be able to deliver.”
If you’ll still in school, then Patel urges you to enter as many internships as possible.
“I recommend that students seek internships early, and throughout their college career. This allows students multiple opportunities to gain exposure to various disciplines, and build relationships in the industry, and it can lead to full-time employment after graduation.”
Once you’re hired, work as if you owned the business - which, at HDR, you do.
“Think of yourself as a small business, and your project managers and teammates as clients. Do good quality work and look for ways to add value to your teams that exceeds expectations,” Patel advises.
“The relationships and trust you build from the very beginning will lead to so many opportunities over your career.”
And if you choose a career at HDR, then you might just see the world a time or two because, as Patel points out, it’s “a global company with projects spanning the world.”
HDR is headquartered in Omaha, NE. Learn more through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. Explore job openings at hdrinc.com/careers.
Ortiz Succeeds via Collaboration at HNTB
Iris N. Ortiz, as a project manager for HNTB and a transportation funding and finance expert, is currently working primarily on toll and express lane projects in the U.S. As such, she also works with a variety of teams at HNTB, including engineers, planners and travel-demand modelers.
She loves the collegiality. “I feel fortunate to work with smart colleagues who are great collaborators,” the tolls project manager shares.
Ortiz might be the new kid on the block, but she’s already a valued member of the group.
“I joined HNTB last year, and everybody has not only made me feel welcomed, but also has come to understand my experience and capabilities, opening opportunities to work together on a wide variety of projects.”
Being a fairly recent hire is a process that’s been eased by her colleagues, but change can be challenging for Ortiz.
“Change tends to be the hardest for me; I’m honestly a creature of habit. My first major change was after completing my undergraduate studies, when I moved from a small town in Puerto Rico to Cambridge, MA to pursue a master’s degree. It was a shock to my system, trying to navigate a new place, a second language, while also completing grad school,” she relates.
A new job requires adaptation, too. “Most recently, I started a new job in a new city with a new company, and that’s probably one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in a long time,” she notes, referring to her current position at HNTB.
So how does a woman of habit adapt? “When faced with change, I strive to maintain a positive attitude, and see change as an opportunity to test my abilities and learn something new,” she responds.
Doing vital work that she loves also helps Ortiz adjust. “When I applied for college, I thought of studying civil engineering with a focus on structural engineering. I dreamed of designing beautiful buildings, and I didn’t know that civil engineering covers many other disciplines, including transportation,” she recalls.
“And I fell in love with transportation, because it’s about moving people and goods, from going to work to getting your Amazon purchases delivered to your door.”
Ortiz understands that her work matters to America and Americans. “Working in transportation means I can make an impact every day in everybody’s life. Good transportation options are key to our country’s healthy economy and quality of life.”
Ortiz doesn’t just enjoy collaborating with her colleagues at HNTB. “I like being able to help public-sector agencies (departments of transportation, transit agencies, local governments) advance their projects, and see those projects move from planning to delivery, being able to say, ‘I worked on that highway and/or transit project, and it’s finally open to the public.’”
Collaboration works for all woman engineers, whether they’re students or practicing professionals.
“Get engaged in professional organizations. After completing your degree and starting your new career, it’s very likely that your interactions will be mostly limited to your peers and managers within your own organization,” she advises.
“Being an active member of a professional organization will expand your network and expose you to people with diverse professional backgrounds, which is key for understanding the industry of which you are part.”
Don’t just participate on paper either, she urges. “Joining an organization is not only paying dues. You have to engage in committees and in leadership positions to really benefit from your membership.”
If you connect, then you might connect the dots all the way to HNTB. “It’s a tremendous experience to work at a company that’s a top toll road provider to agencies around the nation. We have to continually bring our best innovations, technical expertise and quality service,” Ortiz points out.
HNTB is headquartered in Kansas City, MO. Learn more through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Explore job openings at hntb.com/careers.
Jacobs’ Celestain Shoulders the Challenges of Two Degrees & Disciplines
Al Celestain is a civil engineer at Jacobs who does both land and air aviation design. He loves the breadth of his work.
“My work ranges from designing runways and taxiways that carry people to and from to land projects like pump stations and material management sites that help airports manage assets,” Celestain elaborates.
“Jacobs offers me opportunities to work in exciting places on interesting projects, both domestic and abroad.”
Of course, such complex, crucial work requires considerable depth of knowledge. And Celestain brings plenty of varied knowledge, especially since he entered this phase of his career from a different discipline.
“My career started out on the road and bridge side of civil engineering, so transitioning to aviation was a whole new world. It presented a new learning curve I had to wrap my brain around, and being thrust into new project situations at times was kind of scary,” he shares.
Celestain doubted himself at first. “I would wonder, ‘Will I say the right thing?’ Have I done enough reading of specs and criteria that if they ask me a technical question, I at least sound like I know what I’m talking about?’”
His colleagues had years more experience than him, further unnerving Celestain at the start. “Having to prove myself in front people who have been in the aviation industry for years was unnerving.”
However, those same colleagues, the ones with collective decades more experience than Celestain, had his back. He was able to break through his self-doubts to success.
“I made it through by relying on those colleagues around me for guidance, and to help me shore up my research and training,” he remembers.
Whether you change disciplines like Celestain or are a newly minted engineer, you’re likely to find yourself in a similar situation. Celestain suggests using your ears more than your mouth.
“Whether a fresh grad, a young professional or someone transferring from one discipline to another like I did, no matter how smart you are - or think you are - don’t walk into a job like you’re entitled. Be humble and be a sponge. Pay your dues and don’t complain. It’s a big industry, and no one likes a smarty pants,” he advises.
And if you’re still in school? “Study hard, stay in school, intern across different disciplines of engineering and talk to your professors about which discipline is a best fit for you,” he recommends.
“Take your exams early. Don’t wait. If you don’t pass the first time, then pick yourself up and do it again. It’s not a race, it’s a marathon, and if you never stop trying, you will get whatever you set your mind to.”
Celestain speaks from experience, for school challenged him in a couple ways.
“School was difficult for me, coupled with the fact that my university didn’t have engineering as a discipline, so I had to enroll in a 3-2 engineering program where I could get two degrees (one in math and the other in civil engineering),” he recalls.
“This allowed me to stay at my current institution, Jackson State University for mathematics, and get the other degree from my partner school, Southern University, for civil engineering.”
The challenges continued after graduation. “Coming from a historically black university has been a challenge at times in the workplace because most colleagues come from traditional universities and they don’t always think the programs are equal. I’ve learned you must work a little harder to dispel this assumption,” he reveals.
However, for Celestain, meeting all of these challenges has delivered massive rewards.
“I truly enjoy seeing our finished projects, and how they benefit the public and communities we serve. Improving infrastructure, being innovative, and holding the safety, health, and welfare of the public paramount is exciting to me,” he shares.
And as the ambassador of Jacobs’ black employee network, Harambee, Celestain now mentors and collaborates with other black engineers. And he’s glad, again and again, that he plies his expertise at Jacobs.
“Since Jacobs acquired CH2M in December of 2017, I’ve paid close attention to how they’ve handled the merging of people and projects. I’ve been affected by mergers and acquisitions before that weren’t smooth transitions, but this one shows me the leadership has been true to their word and are determined to make Jacobs the employer of choice in the industry,” he concludes.
Jacobs is headquartered in Dallas, TX. Learn more through LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Explore possible careers at jacobs.com/careers.
Sidebar 1 (329 words): https://www.asce.org/vision2025/
The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025
What will the civil engineering world be like in 2025? What roles will civil engineers play in that radically transformed world?
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) asked those questions to a gathering of 60-plus thought leaders from diverse backgrounds and countries - civil engineers, engineers from other disciplines, architects, educators and other leaders.
Entrusted by society to create a sustainable world and enhance the global quality of life, civil engineers in Vision 2025 serve competently, collaboratively and ethically as the following:
• Planners, designers, constructors, and operators of society’s economic and social engine - the built environment.
• Stewards of the natural environment and its resources.
• Innovators and integrators of ideas and technology across the public, private, and academic sectors.
• Managers of risk and uncertainty caused by natural events, accidents, and other threats.
• Leaders in discussions and decisions shaping public environmental and infrastructure policy.
Vision 2025 provides the point of future arrival, but not the path, according to ASCE. It embodies a number of key outcomes for the future - new states of affairs within the social and civil engineering environment targeted for reality by the year 2025.
Together with ASCE’s Roadmap for achieving Vision 2025, those outcomes are separated into manageable pieces, and tactics for achieving each are spelled out.
Many have already embraced the challenge, notes ASCE:
• One university shaped its outreach to prospective students around Vision 2025 and saw a big jump in enrollment.
• The Vision has inspired individual engineers to improve themselves and their firms by targeting outlined leadership and skills.
• Seventeen civil engineering organizations around the globe have signed endorsements of the Vision.
• Key portions of the Vision reports have been translated into three languages: Spanish, Chinese and Turkish.
More details can be found at https://www.asce.org/vision2025/.
Sources: American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) The Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025 and Achieving the Vision for Civil Engineering in 2025: A Roadmap for the Profession
Sidebar 2 (130 words): https://csengineermag.com/article/2018-construction-outlook/
Construction Continues to Build
Total U.S. construction starts will climb 3% to $765 billion, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. By major sector, gains are also predicted for residential building, up 4%, and non-residential building, up 2%, while non-building construction stabilizes after two years of decline.
Also of note are the following statistics:
• Single-family housing is expected to rise 9% in dollars, corresponding to a 7% increase in units to 850,000.
• Multifamily housing will retreat 8% in dollars and 11% in units to 425,000.
• Commercial building will increase 2%.
• Institutional building will advance 3%.
• Manufacturing plant construction will recede 1% in dollar terms.
• Public works construction will improve 3%.
• Electric utilities and gas plants will drop 13%.
Source: Dodge Data & Analytics’ 2018 Dodge Construction Outlook
Sidebar 3 (40 words): https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm
Civil Engineer Stats
2018 Median Pay $86,640 Per Year
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s Degree
Number of Jobs in 2016 303,500
Job Outlook Through 2026 11% (Faster Than Average)
Employment Change Through 2026 32,200
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Sidebar 4 (109 words): Copy with a BAR GRAPH, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm#tab-6
Civil Engineering Is in Demand & on the Rise
As current U.S. infrastructure experiences growing obsolescence, civil engineers will be needed to manage projects to rebuild, repair, and upgrade bridges, roads, levees, dams, airports, buildings, and other structures.
That’s why civil engineering has risen 22.2% while the employment of civil engineers is projected to grow 11% through 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.
Percent Change in Employment Projected Through 2026
Civil Engineers 11%
Total, All Occupations* 7%
*Note: All occupations include all occupations in the U.S. economy.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Employment Projections program and ConstructConnect’s Fall 2018 Forecast and Quarterly Report
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